Call me crazy, but Tom Glavine does not deserve to be in the Hall Of Fame

In analyzing Tom Glavine, you need to put his 305 wins aside. Wins do not measure a pitchers talents because a guy can give up 10 runs in a game, but if his team scores 11, he still gets the win. I highly doubt anyone would argue such a pitcher, someone in the mold of say Jason Marquis, is such a good pitcher.

Tom Glavine's career line is 4413.1 IP, 1500 BB, 2607 K's. That's nothing impressive, by any means. He has a career K/BB ratio of approximately 1.7 (Greg Maddux's K/BB, by contrast, is a shade under 3.4 -- depressed by a nothing-special-but-well-above-average strikeout rate. More impressively, Maddux walked under 1000 batters in 5000 IP -- truly a king of control! The major league average for K/BB was 2.00 in 2007).

Glavine never once struck out over 200 batters in a single season and only once posted a strikeout rate above 7.0 (the league average is around 6.7). Strikeouts, of course, are not the only way to show how good a pitcher is at pitching, but it is a very pitcher-controlled and fairly consistent metric by which one can monitor a pitcher's consistency, ability to fool hitters and simply dominate with good stuff. He came close to 200 strikeouts once, in 1992, when he won a Cy Young with 192 K's. Far be it from me to DENY someone HOF votes because of a low strikeout rate, but a career 5.3 K/9 rate is far from anything impressive, and I want my HOF-ers to have impressive careers.

In fact, the only thing impressive about Glavine's career may be that he posted such a low ERA between 1991 and 2002 (under 3.00 six times, only above 4.00 once). His barely above-average strikeout rates and walk rates over this period were heavily distorted by an incredibly low HR/9 rate (which, however, deteriorated rapidly after the 1999 season). In 1992, with 225 IP, Glavine surrendered only 6 HR. In 1995, he followed that up with 199 IP, 9 HRs. From 1991 thru 1999 (including the 1999 season), Glavine gave up approximately 15 HRs per year and clocked in 225+ innings in all but two seasons (165 IP in 1994 and 199 IP in 1995). After the 1999 season, Glavine only once gave up under 20 HRs in a season (2005), while his IP per season fell to 211 (it was above 230 in seasons Glavine pitched 30+ games), only topping the 225 mark once (2000).

As evident by his career 3.5 ERA, Glavine was surely (and undeniably) a work horse who ended up giving his team a lot of quality innings. However, a lot of that "quality" simply seems to be the result of luck and circumstance. His career WHIP is above 1.3 and hasn't been below 1.28 since 1999. In fact, during his 1991-1999 seasons, his WHIP was more often above 1.4 than it was below 1.2. Glavine's WHIP was never below 1.1. For reference, Maddux's career WHIP is 1.14 and was below 1.1 nine times, almost consecutively. Now WHIP is hardly the tell-tale stat since hits are a volatile statistic. However, the stat does show that Glavine did not do much to limit baserunners and keep his team out of high leverage situations. Further, while Glavine's control element of WHIP was above average, it was hardly anything impressive. Whereas his teammate Maddux walked 20 batters in 233 innings in 1997 and posted ridiculous control numbers annually, Glavine's only elite walk rate year came in 1989.

Of course, we shouldn't by any means argue that "since Maddux was a much better pitcher, Glavine doesn't deserve to go" because Maddux, like Pedro and Clemens and arguably even Smoltz, is on a completely different plane of "greatness."

Still, when you look at the total of his peripherals, Glavine's numbers are not very impressive. He did not have great control (in fact, his control was below average) and he didn't have overwhelming "stuff" (again, below the major league average (league average K/9 was 6.67 in 2007)). He was simply a quality pitcher on a great team who got inordinately lucky because he induced plentiful ground balls to a great defense over the course of his career. The only metric from the Holy Trinity of Consistency for pitchers (HRs, Ks, BBs) that he was above average in is HRs -- and his above average-ness in that department didn't even last a decade (not that I believe that pitchers generally directly control their HR rates anyways).

To quote Ken Tremendous of FJM, whose assertion I entirely agree with,
When determining whether or not Player X belongs in the HOF, we must ask "do Player X's numbers show that he was one of the very best players in the game for a long time? Because there are a lot of guys who excel for 1-3 years and then kind of fade away. And the Hall should be reserved for the ones who don't fade away. Or, alternately, the guys whose careers were cut short for some tragic reason, but who were so insanely amazing at baseball -- so utterly and completely dominant -- that you cannot deny their outrageous shining brilliance."
While Glavine hardly faded away, he didn't really "shine" for more than a few seasons. His ERA+ was pretty damn good (130 or higher) in 9 of his seasons and above 100 (league average) every year but his first four, last two and one somewhere in the middle. However, ERA, as we all know, is often a byproduct of condition and luck (especially when your WHIP is in the 1.3's). I'd say -- and kill me if I'm out of line -- that Glavine's career is a lot like Carlos Zambrano's, only with less K's and less BB's. High WHIPs and mediocre control rates coupled by lower-than-expected ERAs and high win rates.

If anything, I would simply have to put Tom Glavine in what Tremendous called "The Hall of Very Good"


Let me just end this with a little post-script. I do strongly believe that Mike Mussina, who has a career ERA of 3.7 (in the AL, mind you) and is just 13 wins shy of 300, belongs in the HOF. His career K/BB is 3.6 and he only ONCE walked more than 55 batters in a single season (65 in 1996, where he logged a career high 243 IP). In fact, while averaging almost 200 IP across his whole career (215+, if you only look at his first 14 seasons), Mussina only walked more than 50 batters three times. His career BB/9 is under 2. He also struck out more than 200 batters more than few times in his career (four times, to be exact, though he did rack up 195 K's in 2003). If you ask me, Moose>Glavine.

Finally, just to postulate the question, why is Bert Blyleven not in the HOF?